Dan Gingiss, Head of Digital Customer Experience, Discover

Q and A with Dan Gingiss,  Head of Digital Customer Experience & Social Media at Discover

When did you start to see social media as a most effective tool for customer service?

From the beginning, social media has been a critical channel for customer service because it’s the only channel where companies perform service in public. Unlike phone, e-mail, or chat, which are 1-to-1 service channels, social can become 1-to-many or even many-to-many when outside observers chime in on the discussion.

That said, the effectiveness of social media for customer service is highly dependent on the brand’s overall ability to service its customers. For companies with a strong culture of service, social media becomes just another channel that has the added benefit of showing the public how good their customer service is. For companies that struggle with customer service in other channels, social media can exacerbate those issues.

How has your perception of user experience changed over the past few years?

User experience is now seen as a critical function for organizations, whereas it used to be considered a “nice to have”. Customers today understand that some brands are better than others at creating great experiences, so they’ve come to expect it. As a result, user experience has evolved to become much more human-focused.

Practically speaking, more and more customers today are demanding self-service options that are quick and simple. As screens get smaller and consumers perform most of their digital activities on-the-go, these requirements become even more important. Today the design focus is on simplicity, transparency, and ease of completion.

How do you find customer appreciation of service through social media vs. a phone experience?

In social media, we see very high rates of engagement with our customer service interactions, with overwhelmingly positive sentiment. We also receive a lot of unsolicited feedback after a service interaction, whereas in other channels we often have to ask the customer to take a survey in order to provide feedback.

Generally, satisfaction levels in social media are more dramatized because both positive and negative experiences are shared publicly vs. in other channels where the feedback is usually private.

What was one key change to Discover.com that improved your customers’ experience?

When we recently redesigned our Account Center home page, we looked at what the majority of customers were actually doing on the site (vs. what we wanted to promote) and brought those pieces forward, in order to provide a path of least resistance for the customer.

What we found – in both web and mobile – was that customers ended up spending less time on our site, logging in, finding what they were looking for, and logging out. We considered this a big success because we knew we were meeting our customers’ need to quickly self-serve.

Do you think that online customer service will ever completely replace a live, customer service on the phone?

Only when robots rule the world! There’s a time and place for every customer service channel, and sometimes customers have problems that are just too complex to handle digitally. In addition, there is still a sizeable portion of the population that prefers to speak to a human being, and I think that will persist for a while.

What are a few of your favorite social media publications / websites?

I think Social Media Today is a must-read for social articles, and I enjoy the mix of content on Mashable. But mostly I get my news and shareable content from Twitter and apps like Zite, Flipboard and Nuzzel that can curate for me.

What is one of your favorite digital marketing / social media campaigns (other than something you’ve worked on at Discover?)

This example is a couple of years old, so the fact that I still remember it speaks volumes. I am a big fan of “5” Gum, and they had a Facebook experience that was unlocked through a code on the pack of gum. The idea was to get the customer to express digitally what the various flavors of “5” Gum tasted like.

When I first entered the code, I remember this video experience of walking down a long hallway filled with framed pictures on the wall that just happened to be all of the pictures I had uploaded to my Facebook account. Then it asked me to use colors and lines and shapes to describe the flavor. It was a really cool integration of offline and online experiences.

Interested in hearing more from Dan?  He’ll be presenting on  Building a Better Online Customer Experience at discover.com at our Social Media Masters Summit on May 6th!  www.summit.digitalmegaphone.com